Are they both different flavors of Linux? I often see these two used interchangeably or together, which is confusing. Either they may be competing versions of Linux, or parts of the same thing...but not both :)

Can anyone clarify the difference/similarity between them?

  • 2
    What did you learn from Google? What confused you -- specifically -- in the Google results you found?
    – S.Lott
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 1:21
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of 9461
    – sakisk
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 20:14

2 Answers 2


Debian has a release maturity model, where Unstable, Sid, is where all the new stuff goes in. If it sticks, then Unstable becomes Testing, in which nothing can be added during testing. This typically lasts 1.5 - 2 years. If no problem at that point, Testing becomes the new Stable release.

Security updates are made to Stable first, then to Testing.

Debian Stable is notoriously stable, and notoriously behind the times, but very reliable for servers.

Ubuntu came along and said: we take Debian Unstable, make it more stable, add all the latest gadgets, drivers, etc, and release it.

Ubuntu then works at the security updates, package updates, etc, for their Ubuntu releases.

Note that I gladly use Ubuntu on the desktop, but I stick to Debian Stable for servers.

Makes sense?

  • so an application compiled in Ubuntu desktop would run on Debian server right?
    – AdityaGameProgrammer
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 2:36
  • 2
    Depends if they're the same architecture and if all linked shared libraries can be found on the server (along with other factors).
    – jsternberg
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 5:15
  • I'm about to set up a Debian Squeeze (i.e. stable) box and put Google Chrome on there. I figure I'll get a very stable machine, but with all the benefits of a state-of-the-art browser. Does this sound correct?
    – boehj
    Commented Apr 23, 2011 at 11:18
  • @boehj dont know. I only use debian server with console. perhaps. Let us know! Commented Apr 23, 2011 at 19:50

Ubuntu is a derivative of Debian, it uses Debian as a base, and adds it's own software/look.

Debian has a really stable version (like Christopher said), and a less stable version (and a host of different betas/alphas/development builds, like any distribution). Debian is also meant for more advanced users, it's not meant to be anyones first operating system, or an easy just open and browse the web os, it's meant to be a powerful linux machine. Debian doesn't have a release schedule other than get things out when they're ready.

Ubuntu has four main versions, an LTS and a current (LTS for long term support, Ubuntu supports it's LTSs for about three years (desktop) or five years (server), with the two of those releases having either a Desktop or Server edition. The main difference between the two editions is that server doesn't come with a gui by default. Ubuntu releases a new version every six months (the version names are year.month, so 11.04 is the latest release, with 10.04 as the latest LTS, and 10.10 released in the middle of those two). Every two years (or four releases) they release a new LTS.

As a bonus fact, Google uses their own custom spin of 10.04 as their internal operating system, and a good deal of the updates to Ubuntu come from Google.


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